This paper focuses on senior high school students and the ways that bullying affects their school attendance. Selected items from the 2008 Ghana Global School-based Student Health Survey are analysed first to explore the relationships between the duration and type of bullying and school attendance. Second, we investigate whether having emotional problems, in addition to being bullied, incrementally affects the relationship between bullying and school attendance. Third, we explore the mitigating influence of peer friendships on these relationships. In all cases we provide a gender analysis.
The results show that bullying is associated with increased absenteeism for both boys and girls. The analysis of reported emotional problems, however, shows distinct gender differences. For boys, increases in emotional problems are not associated with increased absenteeism for those who are bullied. On the other hand, for girls emotional problems were strongly associated with absenteeism and more so for girls who had not reported being bullied. The third strand of our analysis also showed gender differences in which absenteeism associated with bullying was mitigated by the support of friends for boys but not to the same degree for girls, especially those girls who had reported being psychologically bullied.
In addition to the threat to school access caused by bullying, the gender dimensions of the latter two sets of findings suggest a school environment in which peer friendship and emotional well-being are intertwined in complex ways. While there is little or no research within the Ghanaian context, supported by research from elsewhere, we suggest that peer friendships for girls may be comprised of more non-physical, social and verbal interaction within which it might be more difficult to pinpoint bullying. That peer interactions might include a mixture of support and bullying could explain why there is a strong influence on girls’ emotional well-being and hence their school attendance.
CREATE Pathways to Access Series, Research Monograph Number 41, ISBN: 0-901881-48-1, 38 pp.